Monday, April 14, 2014

MMGM: DIEGO'S DRAGON by Kevin Gerard (with Interview)


DIEGO'S DRAGON, BOOK ONE: SPIRITS OF THE SUN by Kevin Gerard (Crying Cougar Press, 2011)

What It's About (from the book jacket): Eleven-year-old Diego Ramirez has no idea how much his life is about to change when he wins a district-wide writing contest for sixth graders. His prize: a statue of a handsome, glistening black dragon. 

Magnifico, his family and friends exclaim. Diego decides that will be his dragon's name. It's a good choice, because Magnifico actually is the dragon's name. Magnifico isn't really a statue. He's the leader of the Sol Dragones, dragons that live within the magical fires of the sun--and Diego is his unknowing guide.

As Magnifico comes to life he becomes quite mischievous, playing tricks on Diego to embarrass him. When Diego discovers his bloodline, however, he assumes greater control over his dragon and his destiny. In the climactic journey, he frees his people and suffers a terrible loss by guiding Magnifico to their goal.

Opening Lines: "Diego knew the dragon was alive the moment he touched it. Even though only a statue, and only eighteen inches tall, Diego felt a pulsing heartbeat when he accepted it from the author."

What I Liked:

1) The cover: I found the colors of the cover very appealing. 
2) The Latino main character. Diego is an appealing young guy, and I liked the interactions between him and his family and friends. 
3) Magnifico. What a character! This dragon is feisty, and not always in a good mood. I liked the fact that often it is only Diego who can see the dragon--that leads to a number of comic misunderstandings. I also liked the fact that the dragon is a Mexican dragon, and the fact that the quest had to do with the sufferings of crossing the border.
4) The pacing. The story pulses along at a good clip. It doesn't take much to get lost in the world Kevin Gerard has created.
5) Realism. The characters are faced with issues often prevalent in the real world, especially violence. A caveat: I am a very open-minded reader, and don't mind things getting a little gritty--but I have to warn more sensitive readers that there is quite a lot of alcohol consumption (Esteban, Diego's older brother, is an alcoholic), as well as some bad language in both English and Spanish that you don't typically see in middle grade.

I e-mailed Kevin Gerard a few questions, and enjoyed his answers. 

1) Who are your favorite (middle grade) writers?
James Matlack Raney
Katherine Longshore
Bruce Hale
Kirby Larson


2) What's on your nightstand now?
Jim Morgan and the King of Thieves by James Matlack Raney

3) Pick a favorite scene from DIEGO'S DRAGON: SPIRITS OF THE SUN, and say why you like it
Well, the first time Magnifico comes to life in the school library is wonderful, and it's incredible when Diego and Magnifico save Diego's brother, Esteban in the middle of the night, but if I had to pick one scene, I love it when Magnifico hides in the ivy on the side of Diego's house and then can't suppress a sneeze. Ka-BOOM! The concussion from the sneeze knocks Diego and his father out cold and sets off car alarms in the entire neighborhood. It's always nice to add a little humor to a character as powerful as Magnifico.


4) Fill in the blank: I'm really awesome at....
Talking to a multi-purpose room full of students about Diego's Dragon. The students think they're having the best time, but the big secret is that I'm really a 10 year old at heart, and I have as much fun as they do!


5) My favorite breakfast is...
A five-egg omelet with onions, green peppers, and mushrooms. Throw some turkey bacon and a few Aussie Bites (get them at CostCo) on the side, and I'm starting my day right.


6) If you could visit any place, where would it be?
The Glade of Champions, where all the giant cat warriors in the Conor and the Crossworlds series live. I'd like to meet all of them. If I had to stick with reality, though, I want to go to Ireland someday. My great, great, great, great, who knows how many grandfathers ago, left the old country and came to America. I'd like to go back home and scrunch some native soil in my fingers.


There are two other books in the series: Dragons of the Dark Rift and The Battle at Tenochtitlan. Kevin Gerard is also the author of the Conor and the Crossworlds series. You can find out more about him at his website, Diego's Dragon.

EXTRA! EXTRA! READ ALL ABOUT IT! Kevin's going to run a contest for these cool dragon claws. 



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